In a close battle with Scott Lennon, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller emerged victorious from the 2017 election with 5,234 votes, Lennon coming in a very close second with 4,690. Four years later, she ran as an incumbent, winning with 10,796 votes and narrowly beating Amy Sangiolo by only 1507 votes.
Fuller’s priorities, as defined in her campaign website, are listed as such: zoning and housing, environment and climate change, older residents, COVID-19 Pandemic, economic development and schools. In that order.
Of course, we take these priority-placements with a grain of salt. Maybe Fuller listed these issues at random, or maybe the intern tasked with her campaign website made a mistake.
But intentional placement or not, there are discrepancies between her campaign and administration that her list defines.
Notably, the state of our school system accurately reflects our standing on her tiers of significance. Fuller publicly regards the Newton Public Schools (NPS) to be in a state of “excellence” and that her work has been effective in effort and resource allocation. This is not true.
Taking into account the fact that we are amidst contract negotiations, educators are far from the only unhappy recipients of Fuller’s negligent treatment. Budget cuts resulting in unprecedentedly large class sizes, a decrease in available social-emotional support programs and unusable facilities necessary to sustain basic human life are not going unnoticed by students.
These are not unfixable problems. We as a school community are constantly told that the city of Newton lacks the money to support these dire needs. Yet, we store our sports equipment in a brand new unit, we sprint across the freshly turfed Winkler field and we slip on the new floors of the student center.
Fuller continuously invests in large and, ultimately, superfluous gestures that feel more performative than contributive. Grand gestures such as the rebuilding of Countryside Elementary School are, in this circumstance, necessary, but are broadcasted in such a way as if to prove something.
If Fuller truly cared about the wellness of the district, she would attack true problems and make an impact on the issues students and NPS educators know are genuinely prevalent. But she won’t do this, because, to be frank, her interests do not lie in the well-being of public-school youth (her own children did not attend NPS), but in the elderly, her support base.
Her agenda reflects her target demographic. Her support is widely known to reside within senior citizens, and she focuses the majority of her efforts toward supportive legislature and infrastructure rather than genuinely following her motto, “For all of Newton.”
In 2019, Fuller launched NewMo, a city-sponsored ride-sharing service that offers a low, flat rate for all Newton residents, in efforts to create “public transit that is efficient, accessible and sustainable”. This Sept., NewMo announced that it will only be available to senior citizens, riders with disabilities, lower income residents and a limited number of students with high needs in select NPS programs.
Although specifics about the NewMo narrative are ambiguous, we aren’t surprised by its sudden withdrawal. NewMo represented a promise, not only toward environmental efforts, but also to Fuller’s constituents and to young, car-less people who benefitted from the service. Fuller infringed on that promise for a few years of green-glory, just for it to fall through and, as always, conform to her agenda of exclusivity.
When we revisit her aforementioned tiers of significance, we as constituents expect her indicated top priority, zoning and housing, to be the most significant success of her administration. Especially since it is apparent that she is disinterested in thoroughly pursuing the other pillars of Newton. But alas, the pattern prevails.
In 2019, she halted a zoning ordinance created to increase housing affordability, postponing efforts into 2020. To this day, projects up and down Washington Street are stalled. Corporate developments at Riverside are completely paused or stopped.
Fuller knows that development must continue in order to fuel city government, and with this infrastructure stoppage, not only is this preventing significant revenue from entering the city, but she is breaching the remaining agenda she holds onto:
Economic development. The small businesses Fuller openly regards as the key components of our Newton community are dying, and it is the direct result of large development that Fuller is inciting. The relationship between large development and local businesses are already fragile and divisive, as there is a well defined split between those who follow the theory of its success or the results of its practice, but it is perpetuated by Fuller’s rhetoric of trying to promise both at once.
And patterns like this are evermore common in politics today. On the national stage, great ideas and vows to make a difference cloud true interests of the electorate and blur lines defining a politician’s true intentions. Thankfully, as students, we are taught to think critically of our government.
Fuller’s administration teaches us that phony and lackluster efforts are prevalent at all levels of government. Empty promises are one of the biggest fads of our modern era. Mayor Fuller, you are on top of that trend.